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Amid slump, tourism players cry for aid

Industry leader laments P10-B allocation to Tieza for infra and other programs, says they need low-interest loans, financial assistance
By: - Correspondent / @nestorburgosINQ
/ 04:19 AM August 12, 2020

ILOILO CITY—Owners of tourism-related businesses have appealed to the government to look into their “urgent needs” as the industry suffers a slump due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jose Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, said the tourism sector urgently needed financial aid in terms of low-interest working capital loans and other assistance to tour operators, tour agencies and owners of tourism-related businesses, including hotels, resorts, restaurants and transport services.“The stakeholders, as represented by the various associations, have been consistent in their request, from the beginning of the pandemic and quarantine, that financial assistance for business continuity is what the industry needs. Never did we advocate for more infrastructure at this time,” Clemente said in a statement.Tourism industry players have lamented that the P10 billion was allocated for infrastructure projects, under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), in House Bill No. 6953 (Bayanihan to Recover as One Act) instead of financial aid through loans.

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The proposed law provides for a P162-billion standby fund “to support operations and response measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

‘Close to nothing’

“Who will use those infrastructure projects when the industry collapses? Most of us are hanging on by a very thin thread. We are now approaching 150 days of not being able to work and conduct business yet we have gotten close to nothing in assistance,” said Clemente, also president of the Metro Manila-based travel agency, Rajah Tours Philippines Inc.

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“As an industry that provided more than P3 trillion to the economy, provided 5.7 million jobs and 12.7 percent to the (gross domestic product), is this all we get? P10 billion na nga lang, kukunin pa (This is only P10 billion and yet they will take it away from us)?” he added.

Clemente said the P10 billion, even if allocated as financial assistance, is “just a drop in the bucket” considering the losses to the tourism industry due to international and local travel restrictions, and prolonged community quarantine measures.

Struggling

“We are struggling to survive and make sure that we can still provide for our employees at least until the end of the year,” Clemente told the Inquirer. He said losses in the tourism industry would be around P500 billion by the end of September.

In an earlier interview, he said the tourism slump had affected around 5.2 million workers directly employed by industry players and about the same number of those indirectly benefiting from tourism activities.

According to Clemente, the government should prioritize helping tourism workers because the industry is not expected to recover until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

Domestic tourism is also not expected to bounce back until the end of year and international travel until next year, he said.

Clemente said he hoped that the funds intended for Tieza would be reallocated to tourism industry players. INQ

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, economic recession, Philippine tourism
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